The 1937 program of ethnic cleansing of Haitians ordered by the Dominican dictator Rafael Trujillo gets little mention in the history of genocides. Nonetheless, in what is now called El Corte, the Harvest, Dominican military and civilian authorities decapitated or mutilated by machete over 20,000 Haitians—from infants to the elderly—who lived on the Dominican side of the Massacre River, the natural border between Haiti and the Dominican Republic. Massacre River is the story of that pogrom.
Elias Pina is one of the many villages along the Massacre River where generations of Haitians and Dominicans have lived and worked together. After two centuries of intermarriage its people have become “a blended population” where young couples like Adele, of Haitian heritage, and Pedro Brito, of Dominican ancestry, fall in love, marry, and raise their families. When the reign of terror arrives in Elias Pina, Pedro attempts to save Adele from the slicing blade of the machete. That heartbreaking effort is the theme that flows through Massacre River.
But Massacre River is not a historical thriller, nor is it a tragic love story, nor is it the chronicle of a holocaust. It is a dance poem, a surreal danse macabre set to the merengue, staged in the passionate, vivid colors of the Caribbean. Extraordinarily rich in symbol and imagery, powerful in its emotion, Massacre River does not tell you what happened in Elias Pina in 1937. Rather, it puts you in the soul of its people. René Philoctète here reveals himself as a poet of the highest caliber whose work must be treasured and preserved.